Tag Archive | Regency England

Regency Holiday Traditions

christmaspuddingWe tend to treat things such as Christmas trees and holiday gift giving as if they’ve been with us forever. While these are old traditions, they were once far more localized. In this world of media everywhere, we tend to forget that customs were once far more specific to the area.

In England, many areas held to older customs, dating back to Saxon days (and sometimes earlier). The word Yule meant mid-winter and came to use from the Saxons. It was converted to mean Jesus’ birthday, and Christmas (or Christ’s mass) was not used until the Eleventh century.

In England, Advent was the day that began the celebrations leading up to Christmas.

The Feast of St. Martin, or Martinmas, fell on November 11, and St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, had his day on November 30. St. Andrew’s day also marked the beginning of Advent to celebrate the four weeks before Christmas.

In late fall and November, the landed gentry still dined on wild foul as well as domestic poultry—which was now getting a bit old and aged (meaning tough and needing sauces to make the meat palatable). They also had beef, venison and pork with their meals. Fish could still be caught and served, and winter vegetables graced the dining room, including: carrots, turnips, parsnips, potatoes, leeks, cabbage, celery and lettuces. With November, walnuts and chestnuts came into season.

Feasting over the holidays might include game—both wild and tame birds—seasonal fish such as flounder, plaice, smelts, whiting, prawns, oysters and crab. Broccoli made a welcome change from the other winter vegetables, as did cress, herbs, cucumbers, beets and spinach. Preserved fruits would be running low in all but houses with large orchards, and stored apples and pears would have to serve guests. Roasts were popular Christmas fare, usually of beef if it could be afforded, or possibly goose.

Many decorations came from ancient times: Druids, Celts, and even the Romans used evergreen branches made into wreaths in winter solstice celebrations. Holly and ivy were also pagan symbols which remained green (a promise of life to return in dead of winter) and were adopted by the Church. Holly–prized for its ability to bear fruit in winter and its healing uses–became a said to be the thorns Christ wore on the crucifix and the berries were stained red by his drops of blood.  From the Norse and the Druids, Mistletoe (which was often found growing on the sacred oaks and featured in several old myths) was held to be sacred and associated with fertility, which led to kissing boughs. There are several local variations on the kissing bough custom. One holds that a woman who refused the kiss would have bad luck, and another is that with each kiss a berry was to be plucked, and the kissing must stop after all the berries were gone.

Strict Methodists might scorn such customs as smacking not of the pagan, but of the Catholic Church. During Cromwell’s rule, Christmas was even banned. Charles II restored the holiday in England. However, the Parliament of Scotland officially abolished the observance of Christmas in 1640, to purge the church “of all superstitious observation of days”, and it was not restored as a public holiday in Scotland until 1958.

coachsnowOn Christmas Day, and Boxing Day on December 26, which was St. Stephen’s Day. Boxing Day did not get its name from gift boxes, for the exchange of gifts was a German custom still new to Regency England (and only practiced by a few families). Instead, Boxing Day got its name from the older tradition of it being a day in which pleadings could be placed in a box for a judge to privately review. (It’s also said that Boxing Day’s name comes from the boxes given to the poor, or from boxes of goods given to servants–so there are several stories about this day’s name.)

In December, besides beef and mutton to eat, pork and venison were served. Goose was cooked for more than just the Christmas meal, and there would be turkey, pigeons, chicken, snipes, woodcock, larks, guinea-foul, widgeons and grouse to eat. Cod, turbot, soul, sturgeon and eels joined the list of fish in season. Forced asparagus added a delicacy to the usual winter vegetables. Stored apples, pears and preserved summer fruit appeared on the better, richer tables. Mince pies made from mincemeat, which has no meat in it, were another traditional fare, with the tradition being that everyone in the household should stir, for luck, the mix of dried fruit and spices before it was baked.

But households also celebrated not just according to the season, but also to the customs of the area. In the Regency, while some traditions were widespread such as caroling and church bells ringing (or ringing the changes), local customs in the countryside might well hold to the old ways and be more individual.

In Cornish, Christmas is Nadelik, and the Cornish custom of mummers and the “lord of misrule” was very popular, as was caroling, Morris dancing, and the lighting of the Mock or Block. The Cornish tradition was to draw a chalk man on the Christmas or Yule log to symbolize the death of the old year and then set it on fire.

In Devonshire, instead of a Yule log, the tradition was to burn the ashton fago, a bundle of nine ash-sticks bound with bands of ash. Devonshire traditions also hold with eating hot cakes that are dipped into cider (hard cider).

Like most of England, Wales had the traditional caroling but y Nadolic (Christmas) would be celebrated with an early church service held between three and six in the morning known as plygain or daybreak.

Yorkshire held to many old Norse customs, including the lighting of the Christmas candle by the head of the house (which was also to be extinguished by him, but never fully bunt), and the frumety (a dish of soaked wheat, milk, sugar,  nutmeg or other spices). Along with this would be peberkage or pepper-cake or gingerbread or Yule cake and the wassail-cup. In a Yorkshire village, even today, the Morris men might be longsword dancing in celebration.

Under the Kissing Bough_200For one of my books, Under the Kissing Bough, I needed a Christmas wedding and customs that suited the countryside around London. In ancient days, a Christmas wedding would have been impossible for the English Church held a “closed season” on marriages from Advent in late November until St. Hilary’s Day in January. The Church of England gave up such a ban during Cromwell’s era, even though the Roman Catholic Church continued its enforcement. Oddly enough a custom I expected to be ancient—that of the bride having “something borrowed, something blue, and a sixpence in her shoe”—turned out to be a Victorian invention.

For Christmas customs, I relied on those that have carried down through the ages: the Yule log from Saxon winter solstice celebrations (which gives us Yule Tide celebrations), the ancient Saxon decorations of holy and ivy, and the Celtic use of mistletoe on holy days, which transformed itself into the kissing bough. Carolers might well travel from house to house, offering song in exchange for a wassail bowl—a hot, spiced or mulled drink, another tradition left over from the Norse Vikings.

The holidays were a time of games as well, and the game of Snapdragon is a very old one. It’s played by placing raisins in a broad, shallow bowl, pouring brandy over them and setting the brandy on fire. Players then must show their courage by reaching through the spirit-flames to snatch up raisins. And the game even comes with its own song:

Here comes the flaming bowl,

Don’t he mean to take his toll,

Snip! Snap! Dragon!

Take care you don’t take too much,

Be not greedy in your clutch,

Snip! Snap! Dragon!

Celebrations continued to mix tradition and religion when the Twelfth Night feast arrived on January 5, which mixed the Roman Saturnalia with the Feast of the Epiphany (a much bigger celebration in the Middle Ages than was Christmas), when the three wise men were said to have paid tribute to the Baby Jesus.

iceskatingBeside family gatherings, the Christmas hunt might well meet up for December is the height of fox hunting season. Large house parties would be held, and of course, attending church was almost required of everyone.  If local ponds or rivers froze, there would be ice skating and with snow on the ground, the sleigh could be taken out.

For those less fond of the cold, there would be indoor games as well as amusements, which was one reason why young ladies were meant to have accomplishments such as singing or playing a musical instrument, which might pass the time.


Lady Chance 01Available on Amazon.com


Giles glanced down at his English girl. That pretty bow mouth of hers had taken on a mulish set. She arched one eyebrow. He thrust out his elbow for her to take his arm. “Is it possible you are called Lady Chance because there is such a high probability you will throw yourself into trouble?”

“Would you rather I throw you into trouble? If so, tell me how I may oblige in that manner.”

“You would oblige me more if you did not insist on this.”

“Oh, no, my dear Giles. Too much gratifying of such whims as those would lead to spoiling your glum countenance. You might actually smile and we cannot have that. You would cease to be the stern major and your mystery might unravel.”

Giles had no time to answer. They had crossed the room. His uncle watched their approach with speculation bright in his silver-gray eyes. Françoise stood still, his arms folded and his shoulders hunched, looking ridiculously young, more like a boy than a man. After his first glance at Diana, Françoise straightened and appreciation warmed his eyes.

Giles made the introductions in French and finished by saying, “This is my graceless brother who has no time for me now he has come to Paris.”

“No, no, Giles—that is too unkind. You paint me as a care-for-nobody when it is you who are always called off for some parade or duty.” Turning to Diana, Françoise put a hand over his heart. “I assure you, milady. I have left my card three times at my brother’s lodging. But he is a hero now and has no time for family.”

Eyes bright, Françoise grinned. He shared the same tea-brown eyes as his brother and the same deep-brown hair. However, Françoise wore his hair long. The light caught chestnut mixed with the darker shades in soft waves and the silky strands almost invited a touch. Diana’s heart tightened. Giles had once been just so open-faced.

She glanced at Giles and saw his frown had not softened to his brother’s teasing. She tapped Françoise’s arm with her fan. “You must not pull your brother’s tail, although it is nearly irresistible. I am certain he thought only of his family when he put on a uniform. But now you must tell me of the entertainment to be had in Paris, for I am newly arrived and have not seen the city in years.”

Nodding, Paul-Henri smiled. “Not since your aunt had to flee with you back to England, I understand.”

Françoise’s enthusiasm dimmed. He glanced once at his uncle and back to Diana. His expression dropped into a cool mask. “My mistake, milady. I took you…your French is very good. You have not the mangling of our words like most English.”

“That is flattery indeed. I had a French governess. But now, because I am English, I lose all my charm?”

Françoise’s cheeks pinked. He stammered out a denial, but Giles’ uncle interrupted again. “Oh, we all much admire you English, but we do so better when you are at a distance.”


“No, Giles,” Diana said, opening her fan to ply it. “Pray, do not rebuke your uncle for the truth. It is as refreshing as a winter’s breeze.”

Paul-Henri gave a shrug. “Paris can be chilling to those unaccustomed to its shifting winds.”

Diana put her head to the side to consider. She was not yet certain if she liked this man. She had the sense of being weighed by him and found a little wanting. In such a case, she had no difficulty living up to his very low expectations.

She put on a vapid smile. She had perfected it years ago to bore unwanted suitors into abandoning her. “Oh, la, sir! You make a jest. Chilling indeed.” She added an empty laugh. Paul-Henri frowned. She turned to Giles’ brother. “And you also wish us foreigners to blazes? What was your recent fuss about—a republic, was it not? But that cannot be right, for you had yourself an emperor in its stead.”

The color lifted high and bright in Françoise’s face. “The ideals of the Republic still live! And the rights we had under—”

“Françoise,” Paul-Henri said, his tone sharp. He lifted his cane to wave it between Françoise and Diana. “Do not bore the lady. Milady, forgive us. We have forgotten how to entertain. You asked about amusements. Françoise, did you not see a play just the other evening—a delightful diversion?”

Paul-Henri forced the conversation onto safer topics, although Giles’ brother, Françoise, could not seem to recall the plot of what he had seen. Diana fixed a smile in place, nodded when it seemed necessary, and watched Giles from the corner of her eyes.

He seemed willing to allow his uncle to lead the conversation. However, Diana had the impression that Giles was only proving to her why she should take no interest in his relatives. Paul-Henri did not seem to think much of the English. Françoise obviously not only did not wish to be here but had nothing to say to an Englishwoman. The young man moved from reluctant to positively sullen. Diana would have laughed except that would have mortified the poor lad. The uncle seemed content to allow his nephews their moods, but he was quite skilled at orchestrating events.

He managed to pack off both gentlemen, taking Giles to task for not fetching Diana refreshments and sending Giles’ younger brother to call for their carriage so they might leave. Left alone with the older gentleman, Diana closed her fan and wondered why he wanted a word with her. She did not have long to wait for an answer.

Paul-Henri placed both hands on the carved head of his cane and gave a nod. “You need not bother with the smiles. You are very good at them, but as an old dissembler to a younger one, I urge you not to waste your talents.”

She stiffened for an instant, but let out a soft breath and kept her smile. “Oh, it is never a waste to practice one’s skills. I had not trotted out this particular expression in ages. It must be almost as rusty as my accent.”

“No, both are excellent. But if you were as vapid as you have just seemed, Giles would not have looked at you as he did earlier.”

“What look would that be?”

His smile widened. “You might be good for him, milady. Or you might be his death warrant.”

“Really, now—so dramatic!”

He lifted a hand. The gold ring on his little finger caught the light. Like his nephews he wore no gloves. Unlike his nephews, he had soft, white hands. “These are times of high drama. And your cousin, Lord Sandal, is it not? He is placed to decide such things? Or perhaps he is just another English come to visit. It is so difficult to tell who is who these days.”

Diana silently had to agree with him. And why were all these Taliaris men so interested in Jules? She folded her hands together in front of her, feeling more like a schoolgirl than she had in years. “Sir, we could fence with each other for hours and as entertaining as that might prove it would advance nothing. Perhaps you would care to come to a point about something?”

“Or perhaps not. You do know that my nephew plans to return to Bordeaux to the family vineyards. He seeks a life that is all too…quiet.” He made the word sound worse than exile.

Diana could not resist looking out over the crowd to find Taliaris. Would such pastoral peace be good for him? Or would the lack of action leave him bored and fat? Or would the countryside be just the respite he needed from the world? She glanced back at his uncle. “You mean he is not for the likes of me? He needs a quiet wife to go with such a life?”

“I did not say that. Perhaps he knows his own desires—or perhaps he only thinks of a change without knowing just what sort of difference he needs, eh? But Giles returns with a glass of something for you and his scowl for me. Lead him a merry dance, milady. I think that is what is best for him just now.”

“And you, sir? What is it you seek from this evening? This introduction, which you now have? I played to your lead, but I think your trump did not yet take the hand.” He looked at her, his stare sharpening. Diana smiled. “We should play cards someday, sir. I think you are not often well-matched, and I should like to empty your pockets.”

His mouth twitched. He took her hand and bowed over it. “I am never matched, well or otherwise. And I do not play at games. Enjoy this visit, milady, but keep your bags packed.”

She frowned at his words. But Giles returned to her side, and she had to turn to take the glass he held out to her. She sipped the wine, something white and dry, and gave a small shrug. “Very well, I shall say it.” He lifted one eyebrow in inquiry. She shook her head for an answer. “You had the right of it. I should not have forced an introduction. Your uncle now thinks I am a flighty woman—or at least the wrong sort of woman. And your brother has no love for anything—or anyone—English. And I thought my family difficult! But they are, for Jules has deserted me, or at least has taken himself off somewhere. Shall we scandalize everyone with a second dance? Or perhaps we could flee for a walk along the Seine and air that does not reek of perfume and too many schemes?”

He stared at her for a moment. His eyes seemed so dark as to be almost black and she could not read what expression lay in the depths. But he took her hand—a dreadfully forward habit of his—and started for the stairs.

Lady Chance Releases This August

I’m getLady Chance 01ting the follow up book to Lady Scandal ready to release–Lady Chance (ISBN-978-0-9850265-9-2) will be  Book 2 in the Regency Ladies in Distress series–yes, there’s going to be a Book 3 in this series. What’s the book about?

Can an English lady find love and common ground with a French soldier?

In Paris of 1814, as Bourbon king again takes the throne, and the Black Cabinet—a shadowy group of agents employed by the British—is sent to unmask dangerous men and stop assassinations. When Diana, Lady Chauncey—known as Lady Chance—is recruited by her cousin to use her skill at cards to help him delve into these plots, she meets up with a man she thought dead. Diana finds herself swept into adventure and intrigue, and once again into the arms of the French officer who she tangled with ten years ago. But she is no longer an impulsive girl and he may not be the man she once thought was honorable and good.

After the recent defeat of his country, Giles Taliaris wants nothing more than a return to his family’s vineyards in Burgundy. But his younger brother seems involved in dangerous plots to return France to a republic. To get his family through these troubles, Giles can only tread warily. When he again meets meet the English girl he once knew and thought lost to him, he finds himself torn between duty and desire. Can he find his way through this tangle—and if he does, how can he convince his Diana to give up everything for him?

The book took longer than I thought it would to write–there was the research, and interruptions from the idea of building a house–but it has been fun. I do have to thank everyone who kept writing me and bugging me for Diana’s story–you kept me motivated to get it done.

palaisroay1600There was a lot of fun–and more research, as always–to write the book. Since it’s set in Paris of 1814, and since gambling and cards are in the book, that meant I could use the Palais Royal, a place I once visited, which was built in the 1600’s.

On the ground floor, shops sold “perfume, musical instruments, toys, eyeglasses, candy, gloves, and dozens of other goods. Artists painted portraits, and small stands offered waffles.” The demi-monde could also parade their wares—themselves–and often had rooms on the upper floors for their customers’ convenience. By 1807, the Palais Royal boasted “twenty-four jewelers, twenty shops of luxury furniture, fifteen restaurants, twenty-nine cafes and seventeen billiards parlors.” While the more elegant restaurants were open on the arcade level to those with the money to afford good food and wine, the basement of the Palais Royal offered cafés with cheep drinks, food and entertainment for the masses, such as at the Café des Aveugles.

Tulariespalace_arcdeTriompduCarrousel and Arc de Triomphe de l'Etoile (far)The Palais des Tuileris also serves as a setting. Sadly, it no longer stands, having been burned in 1871. The Tuileries Garden, or Jardin des Tuileries, still are there, but in 1814, the Palais des Tuileris, with the Salle de Maréchaux, which took up two floors of the central Pavillon de L’Horloge, was a symbol for Louis XVIII’s return to power.

Weaving in the textures of Paris, the excitement of a city just coming out of war, the uncertainty of those times was great fun.

If you would like an early copy to read so you can post a review once it goes up on sale, email me at Sd@sd-writer.com. The book should be on sale by August 20! Then it’s time to get a few novellas done before Jules’ story.


Closing her eyes, Diana pulled in a deep breath of crisp air. Dawn had come up less than an hour ago and she still had not seen her bed. Jules had taken her to three other gaming salons, including the elegant and excessively luxurious Cercle des Etrangers, in the rue de la Grand Batelière. The play had been quiet and deep in the third, the gentlemen and a few ladies hardly looking up from their cards to acknowledge any arrivals. She had enjoyed a few hands, but she had been distracted by the night and won only a little. Jules took her at last to the small hôtel on the Ile St-Louis he had rented for them.

It was not an English hotel, but a furnished house to let, with servants and lovely rooms left intact from the era before the Revolution had torn France apart. She had stayed only long enough to wave off her yawning maid and change into a serviceable, sage-green walking dress and ankle boots. With a straw bonnet slapped on, she pulled one of Jules’ hulking black umbrellas from the brass stand in the hallway. The porter held the door for her. She wondered if he thought the English were quite mad to be forever dashing about.

She crossed on the nearest bridge and made for the Palais des Tuileries and their gardens, her skirts swirling about her ankles along with the river’s damp. Even though the hour was early, Paris seemed filled with soldiers. Jules had said the Prussians had claimed the Champs-de-Mars, around the Invalides, and the Luxembourg Garden for their camp, and also the Place du Carrousel near the Palais des Tuileries. She could see faint smoke from fires and heard the clatter of tin cups and plates. The British troops camped along the Champs-Elysées, the Dutch in Bois de Boulogne, and the Russians—well, she had no wish to meet up with Cossacks for she disliked their monstrous whiskers that made them look more like bears than men.

The gardens that fronted the Palais des Tuileries offered trees just starting to bloom and trim paths that had long been open to everyone. The trees stood bare still with only a promise of leaves curled tight in pale, green buds.

It was unlike England’s parks. Far more tame, the trees and shrubbery seemed pretty and light and were nothing Diana could name. She had never been much of a gardener. Jules had promised a visit to Chateau Malmaison to see Madam Josephine’s famous roses, but Diana had heard the former empress had taken ill. She felt too much for that abandoned woman as well. If things had gone somewhat differently, Diana thought, that could have been her, living out her days in a similar exile.

She let out a breath and an unaccountable longing swept into her. The daffodils—pale and slim, ready to dance on the wind—would be popping up around Chauncey Castle. The neglected woods would smell of earth and spring rain. She rather missed the daffodils. But what did she want with such that rambling castle? It was an expensive pile at that, for the roof needed new leading, and the chimneys smoked dreadfully in the east wing, and the lanes all needed fresh gravel. It was good the lands had gone with the title to Chauncey’s cousin. He would need the income from the tenants just to keep that castle from crumbling. Better now to think ahead to London.

She would look to acquire a comfortable townhouse, perhaps in Berkley Square. That would give her a place where other ladies might call upon her. She could join a society or two, something musical and something charitable. Perhaps she would even take up sketching again.

She gave a snort at herself. So much domesticity! As likely to come about as it was for the devil to be kind. She would be bored silly within a season with such a tame life, wouldn’t she?

She turned her steps toward the river and let her stride lengthen. The Seine flowed through Paris in civilized curves. It struck her as a tidy body of water with arching, stone bridges crossing it like stitches. It lacked the size and depth of the Thames—no tall sailing ships lined the shore. No warehouses or docks stood along its edges. The small islands that lay like oblong scones in the river had been built upon for centuries with their stone houses and cathedrals. Notre-Dame’s square towers rose into the sky, dark from soot. Its bells would ring soon for morning mass of some kind. Another place she ought to visit, but not with the feel of cards still stiff in her hands and champagne light in her head. Besides, what would a good Anglican do in a Catholic church other than make herself an awkward tourist?

Her walk did nothing to settle her. However, she became aware of other steps behind her. At the next corner, she turned sharp and waited to see who followed.

Taliaris stepped from a swirl of morning mist like some phantom soldier after a battle. Unfair that he should look not an ounce fatigued by a long night. He stopped in front of her. The impluse danced inside her to swing up her umbrella and poke him in the chest with its tip and tell him to go to blazes. But Jules had said she must patch things.

Cocking her head to one side, she said, “We always seem to meet at the most inopportune moments.”

“I would not bother you, but you have no maid with you, no servant. No one in fact. Paris keeps uneasy company these days.”

“But the city is so very well guarded just now, and I can manage.” Diana waved her umbrella as she might a saber. “I have been doing so for any number of years.”

“Managing to get and lose a husband?” Giles asked, his voice a low growl.

He frowned at himself. He had told himself he would not pry. Yet, as soon as he had glimpsed her in the Jardin des Tuileries like some queen from the past, so certain of herself—seemingly unknowing that even queens could die—he had decided he must follow. Too many soldiers would think any woman on her own was no better than she should be, and he did not trust the manners of either the Prussians or the Russian.

Eyeing Diana and her umbrella—not much of a weapon that—he tucked her empty hand into the crook of his arm. She made no move to object. He started to walk her back the way she had come.

She glanced at him. “You make poor Chauncey sound no more than a glove I dropped. I assure you, it—”

“Was a love match? A passion that left you broken hearted?”

“Now you sound a cynic—and, well, no, it did not—” She broke off her words and bit her lower lip. The dawn bathed her in a pink glow. She looked the goddess now for whom she had been named, lush and proud. The years fell away. Giles could feel his mood softening. “He what, ma chère?”

She made a face and looked down to where she swung her black umbrella in step with her stride. “I hate complainers, so I do not intend to become one. And I ought to apologize. Another thing I hate. But I was in the wrong to strike you. I want to make amends.”

“Now you do not sound like a Frenchwoman. You sound too English. You look it as well, with your little bonnet and your long stride.”

“You, sir, are mocking me. No, do not waste your breath with a protest. You are. I can hear it in your tone. But tell me one thing and then I promise to leave the past be. Did you at least think of me over the years? Imagined me in Surrey, at Edgcot Place, sitting by a window, pining—”

“Never that,” he lied.

“Yes, pining. Probably sighing, too, and…and knitting, or stitching. They are the sorts of things men somehow think women are born knowing.”

“A huntress with domestic skills? You malign my imagination. No, I had you slaying hearts in ballrooms and—”

“Ah, so you did think of me,” Diana said, turning to face him, her eyes bright.

He pressed his lips tight. This was why one should not ask questions. The past was the past and should be left there. He lifted a shoulder and gave her as much of the truth as he could afford. “Do you think you did not leave your mark? I am certain many a man remembers you, much to his dismay.”

“Dismay? Nothing more?”

“Come now. We met by chance years ago. I managed to be of service to you and your aunt, and that knave with you.”

“Paxten Marset. He is now my aunt’s husband and utterly respectable, I shall have you know.”

“My felicitations to your aunt. I suppose I must give them late to you as well for the marriage you had.”

“Oh, no, not for that. I ought to have listened to my mother. I could have done far better than poor Chauncey in my earlier seasons. Why there was one year I had three proposals.”


His sharp question stopped Diana.

She widened her eyes and put a hand to her mouth as if she had let the words slip. She hadn’t. She wanted him to know she had once been quite the prize. The umbrella swung between them, dangling from her fingers. She pulled her hand down and jabbed the umbrella point forward, swinging it to indicate the path back into the formal gardens. “Perhaps we should save those stories for another time. We ought to manage some courtesy to each other this late in the day. Or is it early? Ah, I know. Let us start again.”

She pulled away from him. With both hands braced on the handle of the umbrella, she offered a smile and bobbed a curtsy. “Enchante. I am Diana, Lady Chauncey—Lady Chance to almost all. But I give you leave to call me Diana, for I feel we must be good friends.” She held out her gloved hand.

He looked at it. Lifting his stare to her face, he frowned. “This is absurd.”

“No, no. It is a new day. Let us not spoil it with an argument before breakfast.”

Mouth set tight, he took her hand and bowed. “Milady Chauncey.”

“And you, m’sieur, will you not introduce yourself?”

“No, I will not.” Tucking her hand back in place, he started walking. Diana had to hurry to keep up. “That is enough farce for the day.”

“Oh, no, we had the farce last night.” She leaned forward and peered up at his face. She made a show of examining the cheek she had struck. “At least you seemed to have come through this relatively unscathed. Well, M’sieur Mystery, if you will not give me your name in an introduction, which is already scandalous, for we should be proper about this and someone of good repute who is known to me ought to be making you known to me. But this is Paris. Why do you not tell me something of yourself and how you have kept over the years?”

He shook his head. “You wish to hear of the disaster of Spain? Or our disasters at least. Your great victories were not in your papers? Or do you wish to know of its heat and dust and bitter cold? Of mud and too much blood, and how the Emperor’s brother abandoned all at Vitoria? We lost not just the King of Spain but Spain that day—not a topic to sully a fresh dawn.”

“Well, then, let us talk of something else.”

He glanced at her. “Of why you are here in Paris, perhaps?”

“My, you are direct. But you must know we English have all been terribly cooped up upon our little island. I expect you shall soon be overrun with us. Although I know some hold back, for our last visits ended with abrupt departures, as you also know. Perhaps their caution is wise and I am the silly one to be so daring as to return with cannon powder still almost quivering in the air. I, however, wish to be among the first to improve my wardrobe. My cousin Jules assures me I shall dazzle London after this visit.”

“Yet another gentleman under your spell? Is he one of those you almost married?”

“What—Jules?” She smiled and swung her umbrella up and out again, slashing the air. “I think there are times Jules wishes for the right to beat me as only a husband may. But he resists all feminine wiles. He swears I am to blame for leaving him immune to fair charms. I used mine on him indiscriminately when we were both growing up—our family lands march together. And you must think I am a flirt with a dozen men after me to ask such a question.”

“I think things happen around you and to you.”

She wrinkled her nose. “I only wish that were true…m’sieur.” She stressed the word with a touch of mockery.

“If it is to be Diana, you had best leave off such formality. You know my name. I want you to use it,” Giles said, the words curt.

He knew he had no right to this sullen mood of his. But disappointment ate at him. She was not the girl he remembered. She was not that child of honor and courage she had seemed so long ago. The memory soured. He hated that. He took a breath and forced himself to be fair. The years had changed him as well. Why should they have left her the same as what he had…ah, but there was nothing here to mourn.

He shook his head. “I had best see you back to where you stay.”

She gave him her direction and he took her there, crossing over the Pont Marie to the Ile St-Louis. On the doorstep, she pulled away and stared at him. He could not read her expression. She smiled, but the curve of her lips looked stiff upon her face. He could feel the heat of her body. He could remember how she had once felt pressed closed to him.

“Thank you…Giles. I am certain you have saved me once again.”

“It grows chill. We shall have rain. And we have too many armies in paris. Think on that next time you go walking and bring something more than that to look after you.” He gesturing to her umbrella. With a short bow, he, but he could feel her stare upon his back as he strode down the street.

The Regency Meal, or Food, Glorious Food

Hanna GlassThere is something wonderful about food. Why else would we watch shows about cooking, buy cook books, and even enjoy reading (and writing) about food. Regency England was also an era that enjoyed its food.

There was interest enough in food skills that by 1765 Hanna Glasse’s The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy had gone into nine editions, selling for five shillings if bound. (Back then, one could buy unbound books and have them custom bound to match the rest of the books in one’s library.) Hanna’s book remained popular for over a hundred years. However, her recipes can be difficult to translate into modern terms–the quantities often seem aimed to feed an army, as in this recipe for ‘An Oxford Pudding’:

“A quarter of a pound of biscuit grated, a quarter of a pound of currants clean washed and picked, a quarter of a pound of suet shred small, half a large spoonful of powder-sugar, a very little salt, and some grated nutmeg; mix all well together, then take two yolks of eggs, and make it up in balls as big as a turkey’s egg. Fry them in fresh butter of a fine light brown; for sauce have melted butter and sugar, with a little sack or white wine. You must mind to keep the pan shaking about, that they may be all of a light brown.”

I’ve yet to try this recipe, and when I do I’ll probably substitute vegetable oil for suet, but it does sound tasty.

Amounts in older cookbooks are also often confusing to the modern reader, often listing ingredients to be added as handfuls, as in the rue, sage, mint, rosemary, wormwood and lavender for a “recipt against the plague” given by Hanna Glasse in The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy.

Brighton KitchenThe time spent on making these recipes could also be considerable. This was an era when labor was cheap, and if one could afford servants, they could provide that labor.  The Prince Regent’s kitchen in Brighton was fit for a king of a chef, and large enough to allow an army of cooks, pastry chefs, under cooks, and scullery maids. It also sported windows for natural light as well as large lamps, and pillars in the shape of palm trees to carry on the exotic decor of the rest of the Brighton Pavilion. Elaborate dishes could be concocted both for the well and the sick.

Shank Jelly for an invalid requires lamb to be left salted for four hours, brushed with herbs, and simmered for five hours. There are few today who have time for such a recipe, unless they, too, are dedicated cooks.

Sick cookery is an item of importance as well for this era. Most households looked after their own, creating recipes for heart burn or making “Dr. Ratcliff’s restorative Pork Jelly.” Coffee milk is recommended for invalids as is asses’ milk, milk porridge, saloop (water, wine, lemon-peel and sugar), chocolate, barley water, and baked soup. (Interestingly, my grandmother swore by an old family recipe of hot water, whisky, lemon and sugar as a cough syrup, and that’s one recipe I still use.)

As interest expanded, and a market was created by the rise of the middle class, other books came out. Elizabeth Raffald had a bestseller with The Experienced English Housekeeper. The first edition came out in 1769, with thirteen subsequent authorized edition and twenty-three unauthorized versions.

Dinner_FromMrsHurstDancingIn 1808, Maria Rundell, wife of the famous jeweler, came out with her book A New System of Domestic Cookery for Private Families. This book expanded on recipes to also offer full menu suggestions, as well as recipes for the care of the sick, household hints, and directions for servants. This shows how the influence of the industrial revolution had created a new class of gentry, who needed instructions on running a household, instructions that previously had been handed down through the generations with an oral tradition. The rise of the “mushrooms” and the “cit”, merchants who’d made fortunes from new inventions and industry, created a need for their wives and daughters to learn how to deal with staff and households.

Any good wife had much to supervise within a household, even if the servants performed much of the actual work.

A household would make its own bread, wafers, and biscuits, brew its own ale, distill spirits, and make cheese. In the city, some of these would be available for purchase. Fortnum and Masons specialized in starting to produce such ‘luxury’ goods (jams and biscuits, or what we Americans would call cookies).

In London, wines would be purchased from such places as Berry Brothers, a business still in existence as Berry Bros & Rudd. Establish in the late 1600’s at No. 3 St. James’s St., the store initially supplied coffee houses with coffee and supplies. They expanded into wines when John Berry came into the business due to marriages and inheritance. Berrys went on to serve individuals and London clubs such as Boodles and Whites with coffee, wines, and other goods. They put up their ‘sign of the coffee mill’ in the mid 1700’s, and Brummell as well as others used their giant coffee scale to keep an eye on his weight and keep his fashionable figure.

Laura Wallace offers more information on wines and spirits of the Regency (http://laura.chinet.com/html/recipes.html. She notes Regency wines: port, the very popular Madeira, sherry, orgeat, ratafia, and Negus, a mulled wine. Other wines you might find on a Regency dinner table include: burgundy, hock (pretty much any white wine), claret, and champagne (smuggled in from France).

For stronger spirits, Brandy was smuggled in from France. Whiskey, cider, and gin were also drunk, but were considered more fitting for the lower class. (Whiskey would acquire a better cachet in the mid to late 1800’s, due to the establishment of large distilleries and after it again became legal. The Act of Union between Scotland and England in the early 1700’s and taxation drove distillers into illegal operation. After much bloodshed, and much smuggling, the Excise Act of 1823 set a license fee that allowed the distillery business to boom.)

For weaker fare, ale, porter, and beer were to be found in almost any tavern, and would be brewed by any great house for the gentlemen. Water as a beverage, was often viewed with deep suspicion, wisely so in this era, but lemonade was served.

As Laura Wallace notes on her site, “port, Madeira and sherry are heavy, ‘fortified’ wines, that is to say, bolstered with brandy (or some other heavy liquor). Port derives its name from the port city of Oporto in Portugal. Madeira is named for an island of Portugal…

“Madeira is particularly noted as a dessert wine, but is often used as an aperitif or after dinner drink, while port is only for after dinner, and historically only for men. ‘Orgeat’ is… ‘a sweet flavoring syrup of orange and almond used in cocktails and food.’ Ratafia is…a sweet cordial flavored with fruit kernels or almonds.”

In the country, a household functioned as a self-sufficient entity, buying nothing other than the milled flour from the miller (although many great houses might also grown their own wheat and mill it), and perhaps a few luxuries that could not be produced in England, such as sugar, tea, coffee, chocolate, and wines that could not be locally produced. Fish could be caught locally; sheep, beef, and pigs were raised for meat as well as hides and fat for tallow candles; chickens, ducks, and other tame birds were raised for eggs and for their feathers (useful things in pillows); wild birds, deer and other game could be hunted on great estates; bees were raised for honey and wax candles of a high quality; breweries and dairies were found on every estate, and every house would have its kitchen garden with vegetables and herbs. Berry wines could be made in the still room, along with perfumes, soaps, polishes, candles and other household needs. Many of the great houses also built greenhouses or orangery to produce year round, forcing early fruits, vegetables, and flowers, and providing warmth for the production of exotics such as oranges and pineapples. (The concept of heating with local hot springs had been introduced to England by the Romans, and was still around in Regency Era, and many new innovations were also being introduced for better heating and water flow into homes.)

For a gentlemen who lived in the city without a wife or a housekeeper, cheap food could be purchased from street vendors in London, but most meals would be taken at an inn, a tavern, or if he could afford it, his club. Many accommodations provided a room, and not much more, with the renter using a chamber pot that would be emptied into the London gutters, and getting water from a local public well (and this shared water source accounted several times for the spread of cholera in London). Cheaply let rooms had no access to kitchens. Hence the need for a good local tavern, or to belong to a club.

According to Captain Gronow, remembering Sir Thomas Stepney’s remarks, most clubs served the same fare, and this would be, “‘the eternal joints, or beef-steaks, the boiled fowl with oyster sauce, and an apple tart.'” From this remark about the poor quality of food to be had, the Prince Regent is said to have asked his cook, Jean Baptiste Watier to found a dining club where a gentleman could have a decent meal. Headed by Labourie, the cook named by Waiter to run the club, it served very expensive, but excellent meals. It was no wonder that a single gentleman might well prefer to perfect his entertaining discourse so he might be invited to any number of dinners at private houses.

As with all eras, in the Regency, meals provided a social structure for life.

a simple mealTo start the day in London, a fashionable breakfast would be served around ten o’clock, well after most of the working class had risen and started their day. The Regency morning went on through the afternoon, when morning calls were paid. In London, five o’clock was the ‘morning’ hour to parade in Hyde Park. A Regency breakfast party might occur sometime between one and five o’clock in the afternoon.

During morning calls, light refreshments might be served.  Ladies might have a ‘nuncheon’ but the notion of lunch did not exist. Also, the lush high tea now served at most swank London hotels actually originated as a working class dinner, and was perfected by the Edwardians into an art form, but was not a Regency meal.

In London, the fashionable dined between five and eight, before going out for the evening. This left room for a supper to be served as either a supper-tray that might be brought into a country drawing room, or as a buffet that would be served at a ball. Such a supper would be served around eleven but, in London, this supper could be served as late as nearly dawn.

Country hours were different than city hours. In the country, gentlemen would rise early for the hunt or to go shooting. Breakfast would be served after the hunt, with only light refreshments offered before hunting. These hunt breakfasts might be lavish affairs, and if the weather was good, servants might haul out tables, silverware, china, chairs and everything to provide an elegant meal. Again, tea might be taken when visitors arrived in the country, and this would include cakes being served, along with other light sweets.

Dinner then came along in the Regency countryside at the early hour of three or four o’clock. This again left time in the latter evening for a tea to be brought round, with light fare, around ten or eleven. A country ball might also serve a buffet or a meal during the ball, or a dinner beforehand.

From the Georgian era to the Regency the method for serving dinner changed. “…as soon as they walked into the dining-room they saw before them a table already covered with separate dishes of every kind of food…,” states The Jane Austen Cookbook.

Family MealThe idea was that with all courses laid on the table, those dining would choose which dishes to eat, taking from the dishes nearest. It was polite to offer a dish around. Food in History notes, “It was a custom that was more than troublesome; it also required a degree of self-assertion. The shy or ignorant guest limited not only his own menu but also that of everyone else at the table. Indeed, one young divinity student ruined his future prospects when, invited to dine by an archbishop who was due to examine him in the scriptures, he found before him a dish of ruffs and reeves, wild birds that (although he was too inexperienced to know it) were a rare delicacy. Out of sheer modesty the clerical tyro confined himself exclusively to the dish before him….”

This style of serving dinner was known as service à la française. During the Regency this was replaced by service à la russe in which the dishes were set on a sideboard and handed around by servants.

Every Book Has Two Stories

TheCardrosRubyThere are two stories for every book–the story in the pages, and the story behind the pages. For The Cardros Ruby, it’s story is a long one, but I’ll shorten it up.

Back in the day I’d written a story–this one–and it was good enough to final in RWA’s Golden Heart for Best Regency. That delighted me, and I went to Hawaii (and I doubt RWA will ever have a conference there again, since most of us really wanted to be on the beach and not in conference rooms). The book didn’t win, but a good friend (made at the conference), won and went on to sell–this book didn’t sell.

Now there are always many reasons why a book might not sell, even a very good book. Back then the choices were traditional Regency publishing with strict word counts of under 70K, and Historical Regency romance, but those were going hot, and have since even gone hotter. This book didn’t fit either marketing category–it’s a long traditional Regency (with a bit of a mystery in it, but not enough to make it a mystery). So it was a book without a marketing category–that used to be death for any book.  It was doomed to a shoebox life.

These days, thank heavens, it’s a different world. So…an edit later, a read through by others, and a cover, and it’s now finally out in the world.

The Cardros Ruby is–I hope–a bit of a throwback to the days when novels could be novels–when a romance could have some action, some history, some mystery, and just be a great read. Hopefully, it’s all that.

A Man with a Dark Past…

After leaving home years ago amid scandal, Captain Desford Cardros has returned home to mend his wounds, and settle an old score with his brother. But he is drawn to a beautiful woman whose brother is the target of mysterious accidents. Now Cardros must choose between repayment for past wrongs, or a love that could be his salvation.

A Lady Whose Future is Uncertain…

Helena Seaford is ready to do anything to protect her only brother, even trust a scoundrel. But will she hold to her an upbringing that intends her to be a lord’s wife, or will passion lead her into scandal?

 A Deadly Secret to Hide…

As a killing frost holds everyone prisoner in the Yorkshire country, a fragile alliance will be tested by old secrets and lies. Ultimately, the truth may be found in the story of what did happen to the Cardros Ruby five years ago?


Cardros had a dislike for being of use. Army life had taught him that always meant doing something stupid and generally dangerous. Over the years, he had learned to salute and say, “Yes, sir,” and do as he thought best given the circumstances. He had not, however, learned to master his dammed curiosity. It tugged on him now, pulled like a cat with yarn to unravel. He knew he would do better to ignore it. “My dear girl, my reputation precedes me, as your aunt has said, so you must know I’m no gentleman.”

Her eyebrow quirked high again, and her mouth twitched as if she might have something to say, but she bit back the words. She had a light dusting of freckles across her nose—very unfashionable—and they no longer stood out on too-pale skin. She stared at him for a moment, her gaze direct, leaving him uneasy, feeling as if she could see through to his thoughts, to the old hurts that he took care to hide from the world. But that was only a fancy, for she pokered up again with proper manners.

“I presume too much on your time. Of course, despite aiding Havelock, you have no real interest in our troubles.”

He let out a breath. If she had pressed, he would have resisted, but this sudden capitulation—this retreat—left him with the ingrained desire to pursue. A withdrawal needed to be followed. However, he kept his tone flippant—he wanted his options left open.

“Will it help if I say I do find my interest in you growing by the minute? Probably not such a good thing for you, but shall we take that drink and see what develops?”

Crossing the room to the decanters, his stride stiff and shortened, he wondered what she thought of his limp. Damaged goods, no doubt. Less than a full man. She said nothing, however, of his injury and asked instead, “Did you happen to see my brother’s accident?”

“I didn’t, but I should think his horse slipped in the mud. Now, you owe me an answer—why on earth did my mother drag you here? I assume she must be in residence and did so, for I can’t imagine why else you’d be visiting. It’s a dull place in the best of weather.”

He poured brandy for himself, almost poured her wine, but thought better of it, so a splash of brandy to steady her nerves as well. He brought the glasses back, put them on a side table where the sharp aroma wove into the room along with the comfort of wood smoke. He settled himself on the couch next to her, and thought she looked to be carrying on an internal debate.

She sat with her hands tightly intertwined, her eyes downcast, and a frown tugging her brows flat on her forehead.

He almost reached out to smooth the lines forming, but he wasn’t quite certain of his ground yet. Always best to scout the area before choosing to engage in a skirmish. Stretching out his bad leg, he took up his brandy and sipped. Ah, good to see Ian hadn’t drunk the cellars dry of the good French cognac. The golden liquid warmed his insides like a Guy Fawkes bonfire. He couldn’t let such drink go to waste.

Picking up the second glass, he nudged her arm with it. She glanced at it as if he was offering poison.

“You may trust me on one thing—this will help,” he said.

She took the glass with a challenge in her eyes, and tossed it back as if it were water. “My grandmother raised my brother and I, and she’s Scottish. We know how to drink.”

“Well, in that case…” he rose, refilled both glasses and came back. Clinking glasses with her, he offered a toast, “To mending old wounds, and making new ones.”



Tea Time

TeaServiceToday we have a guest post from author Ella Quinn on tea — so curl up with a cuppa and enjoy!

Ah, tea. Once could wax eloquently on the subject of tea, and one has. The small leaves have been the topic of erudite, and sometime heated conversation, especially when talk turns to how tea was drunk over 200 years ago. And why, you ask, would one want to discuss that particular matter? Well… because I am a Regency author, and, therefore, I tend to have conversations with other Regency authors on seemingly innocuous matter.

The actual origins of the drink are said to date back to Sichuan province’s Emperor Shen Nung 2737 BC. In China, tea had the reputation of being helpful in treating everything from tumors to making on happy.

teaboxTea was first brought to England from China in the mid-17th Century. It made its debut around the same time as Turkish coffee and hot chocolate. Tea had been drunk on the Continent prior to its arrival in England as Ladies Arlington and Offory developed a taste for it in Holland and brought some home with them. At the time, tea was hideously expensive, one report in 1666 had it as costing 40s a pound when brandy cost 3. Considering the average lawyer earned the equivalent of £20 per year, it is not surprising that only the wealthy could afford to buy it. It was during this century that tea began appearing in coffee houses as well.

While the men were out drinking coffee, tea and chocolate at coffee houses which were morphing into clubs such as White’s, the ladies followed Queen Catherine’s example (she brought her own tea from Portugal) and remained home to drink tea a chocolate. There appear to be several reasons that coffee did not become popular at home, one was the smell, which many found objectionable.

Tea PartyThe earliest painting I found of ladies getting together to drink tea is A Tea Party by Verkolje. Since 17th Century it was customary for the lady or gentleman of the house to actually brew and serve the tea.

By the late 17th Century, green tea in both leaf and powered form, and black tea called Bohea from the Bohea mountain region were being imported. If tea wasn’t expensive enough, the government decided to tax it, and smugglers opted to take advantage of that decision and a trade smuggled tea began. By the 18th Century the beverage had become so popular that no less than at least fourteen different types of tea were available, as were adulterated teas. Smouch making, the mixing of tea with dried ash tree leaves had begun. Because it was easier to hid smouch in green tea, black tea became more popular. At the end of the century, tea was enjoyed by all social classes.

By the 19th Century, tea was also being imported from India and Ceylon. The beverage was drunk at breakfast, in the afternoon (Jane Austen makes mention of it in1804), evening and in times of distress. A while ago, I ran across a quote from a lady stating that one invited friends to “drink tea” and that the term to “take tea” was vulgar. Unfortunately, I can no longer find the reference.

teatableThe popularity of tea also spurred new serving wear, furniture and later in the century rooms in houses were set aside for the purpose of drinking tea.

Now back to the original debate. According to Jane Pettigrew’s A Social History of Tea, which I highly recommend and from whence much of this information has been derived, Tea was drunk with sugar and either sweet milk or cream. It appears that more men preferred cream than did women. Or at least they wrote about it more. When Jane Austen wrote about drinking tea, it was with milk.

Tea plays a large part in my debut novel The Seduction of Lady Phoebe. The hero, Lord Marcus is devoted to tea. Unfortunately, his father will only allow coffee to be served at breakfast. Lady Phoebe, as did most ladies of the time, had her own blend.

Excerpt from The Seduction of Lady Poebe

A low growl from her stomach caught her attention. “I’m famished.”

Marcus nodded. “As am I. When I have a household of my own again, I’ll order breakfast to be served early.”

She turned Lilly toward the gate. “I’ll wager if we go back to St. Eth House now, François, my uncle’s chef, will find something to feed us.”

“Lead on.”

After they entered St. Eth House, Phoebe motioned to Marcus to follow her through the baize door leading to the kitchen.

With a brilliant smile on her face, she approached François, the St. Eth chef de cuisine. “François, we have been riding and are so very hungry. Will you feed us?”

He glanced from her to Marcus. “Oui, milady. Naturellement.”

François gave them each a warm bun with honey before shooing them up the stairs to await their breakfast.

Phoebe took a place at the table and Marcus sat next to her. Ferguson brought tea and she poured them each a cup. The buns were wonderful, tasting of honey and butter. She wondered what François would send up for the rest of their breakfast.

Marcus gave a satisfied sigh. “Phoebe, I can’t thank you enough for the tea. I almost always have to have coffee at home.”

That was very strange. Puzzled, she asked, “Why do you not ask for tea to be served if you don’t like coffee?” It was the first time she’d ever seen him disgruntled.

“I asked for tea once, years ago, and my father gave me coffee. He was so adamant, I never asked again. I still feel like a guest at Dunwood House, as if I’ll be returning to Jamaica. . . .”

THE SEDUCTION OF LADY PHOEBE ~ ON SALE: September, 19, 2013LADY PHOEBE STANHOPE, famous for her quick wits, fast horses, and punishing right hook, is afraid of nothing but falling in love. Fleeing a matchmaking attempt with the only man she despises, Phoebe meets a handsome blue-eyed stranger who sends her senses skittering. By the time Phoebe discovers the seductive stranger is the same arrogant troll she sent packing eight years ago, she is halfway to falling in love with him.

LORD MARCUS FINLEY last saw Phoebe striding regally away, as he lay on the floor with a bruised jaw and a rapidly swelling eye. Recently returned from the West Indies, Marcus is determined to earn Phoebe’s love, preferably before she discovers who he is. Determined to have Phoebe for his own, Marcus begins his campaign to gain her forgiveness and seduce her into marriage.

Can Phoebe learn to trust her own heart and Marcus? Or is she destined to remain alone?

“Lady Phoebe is a heroine Georgette Heyer would adore–plucky, pretty, and well worth the devotion of the dashing Lord Marcus. A marvelous find for Regency romance readers.” — NYT Bestseller Grace Burrowes 

“Ella Quinn’s The Seduction of Lady Phoebe is a passionate tale full of humor, romance, and poignancy. Quinn writes classic Regency romance at its best!” — Shana Galen

Preorder or Buy at:

Amazon US

Amazon UK


Author Ella Quinn has lived all over the United States, the Pacific, Canada, England and Europe before finally discovering the Caribbean. She lives in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands with her wonderful husband, three bossy cats and a loveable great dane. Ella loves when friends connect with her. Visit her at www.ellaquinnauthor.com, or connect on Facebook, Twitter, or at her blog. 


Regency Travel: Cary’s New Itinerary

The Post ChaiseWhen you’re writing about the past, too often our references come second, third, or even fourth-hand. We read diaries and letters that are often edited by children and grandchildren. We scan biographies–some brilliant and some shabby beyond belief. And we read books written about the Regency. But sometimes a novelist needs more.

When writing about characters who live in the Regency, we often need t o get into those character’s heads. We need to see how they lived. We need first-hand experience. I’ve been known to read by candlelight–truly an eye-straining experience–brandish a sword, and even try a quill and ink to see what it’s really like.

But there are some books that offer a first-hand experience. And one of my favorites is Cary’s New Itinerary.

At the end of the eighteenth century, John Cary was commissioned by the Postmaster-General to survey all the principal roads in England. He did this by walking these roads, pushing a wheel connected to a counter, which kept a tally of the number of rotations and then produced an accurate mileage.

Between 1787 and 1831, Cary put his knowledge to use and published, among other books, the New English Atlas, The Travellers’ Companion, the Universal Atlas of 1808, and Cary’s New Itinerary. The maps and surveys have some of the most accurate and valuable data about the structure of the Regency world. They also provide an insight into how people traveled in the Regency.

Published in 1815, the fifth edition of Cary’s  goes on to explain that it is, “an Accurate Delineation of the Great Roads, both direct and cross throughout, England and Whales, with many of the Principal Roads in Scotland, from an actual admeasurement by John Cary, made by command of his Majesty’s Postmaster General.”

There’s more detail provided at the front of the book in an “advertisement” that’s more of a preface.

The information alone on roads and distances, with fold-out maps provided, has helped me sort out the practical problems that face any Regency writer–such as, how far is it really between London and Bath? And what roads might one take? However, Cary’s offers much more.

Cary’s divides into neat, organized sections. The man was obviously methodical. The first section lists the direct roads to London–as in all roads lead to this metropolis. The next section gives a list of principal places–i.e., larger towns, that occur along the cross-roads. A cross-road is a road that crosses one of the direct roads into London. At this point, you begin to see how London-centric this world really was. As someone living outside of London, it would be your goal to get to a major town, and then you could get to London. Cary, living in London, wrote his book for outward-bound Londoners, and that is how the book is organized.

The next section is as important to a Regency writer as it would have been to someone traveling in the Regency–it is a list of coach and mail departures. This includes the name of the London inn from which the coaches departed, the towns each coach passed through, the mileage, the departure time, and the arrival time. It’s an utter godsend if you have to get your heroine to Bath at a certain hour on the coach. I can also picture Regency Londoners pouring over this information, planning short trips to the seaside, or to watering towns.

The next section lists all direct roads, as measured from key departure points in London, but this is not just a dry list of mileage. Descriptive notes are tucked into various columns to describe houses of note and distinctive sights. For example, if you’re going to Wells from London, then, “Between Bugley and Whitbourn, at about 2 m(iles) on l(eft) Longleat, Marquis of Bath; the house is a Picture of Grandure, and the Park and Pleasure Grounds are very beautiful.”  This was an era in which slower travel meant taking the time to look at surroundings.

The next section provides a similar treatment for cross-roads, and not to be overlooked, Packet Boat sailing days are listed for England’s various sea ports, just in case an intrepid traveler whishes to travel abroad.

Finally, Cary’s provides an index to Country Seats, or as Cary’s notes, “In this Index the Name of every resident Possessor of a Seat is given, as well as the Name of the Seat itself, wherever it has a distinctive Appellation.”  This is actually a list from the 1811 returns to Parliament, as noted in the book. In the Regency, this actually would have been a much used feature, for it would allow a traveler to look up and visit various great houses and country seats. It was a time, after all, when visitors expected the great houses to always be open for show, and to be gracious in their hospitality.

Overall, Cary’s is not a book that will give you insight into the politics of the Regency, nor into the social structure of that world.  However, between its worn covers lays the description of the Regency world that can put you back into that era, just as if you were traveling the roads of England.